Aretha Franklin: The Way We Were

Detroit soul legend sweats a sold-out Moody once again

The purse stashed under the piano Thursday night foretold Aretha Franklin’s arrival. Because the gospel priestess demands the AC be turned off for her performances, the 72-year-old Detroit native cut through the humidity with exquisite vocal power during another ACL Live at the Moody Theater sell-out. For 90 minutes, the crowd shivered nonetheless.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

Amidst a sleek mix of manes and perfect silver perms, the bespectacled man squirming in the seat beside me leaned over and yelled, “You’re going to be sorry you’re sitting here.” In a flash, he jumped out of his seat for opener “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” my Dr. Pepper staining his shorts.

In a flowing black and white dress, the Queen of Soul preached – “Natural Woman.” Waving at the frenzied congregation, she urged, “Come on, sing.” Wrapped in pure nostalgia, they obliged at full volume.

Forty minutes into the set, Franklin began fussing with her eye, gesturing to bandleader H.B. Barnum. After a 17-minute interlude, during which the 11-piece brass contingent diverts the show to 2014 with Pharrell’s “Happy,” the diva returned, joking about a make-up malfunction.

“That mascara was giving me a fit. I went back into the dressing room, and boy did I look like a bat!”

The singer addressed the health issues that have stunted her career in recent years with an extended autobiographical groove, then lightened things up with her Eighties hit “Freeway of Love.” Cue goofy dancing and belly laughs – and the encore.

After a hip-shaking rendition of “Respect,” Franklin clutched her second bouquet of red roses. A final song then coated an audience aglow with sweat in mellow bliss: “The Way We Were.” Kicking off her heels, Franklin demolished the Barbra Streisand ballad.

After her final exit, everyone waited hopefully as a stagehand retrieved her bag from below the piano – said to be the night’s purse, the take: payment. House lights on.

Set-list, Sept. 3, 2014:

“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”
“(You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
“Jump To It”
“Sweet Sixteen”
Band instrumental
“Amazing Grace”
“I Remember”
“Chain of Fools”
“Ain’t No Way”
“Sweet Bitter Love”
“Freeway of Love”
“The Way We Were”

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Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Pharrell, H.B. Barnum, Barbra Streisand

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